Field Sobriety Tests In Nevada

The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration is a federal agency that has established field sobriety tests as a means of standardizing police officer methods for determining if someone is driving under the influence. These tests are not the only factors considered by police when deciding whether to stop you for suspicion of driving under the influence. If you were stopped by the police for suspicion of driving under the influence and received a field sobriety test in Nevada and failed, consider visiting with the experienced criminal defense attorneys at Spartacus Law Firm at (702) 660-1234 to learn more about your legal rights. 

Types of Field Sobriety Tests in Nevada

The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration developed the standardized field sobriety tests that are used throughout the county, and in the state of Nevada. The three tests that comprise the standard field sobriety test (SFST) battery include: Horizontal Gaze Nystagmus, Walk and Turn, and the One Leg Stand. 

Horizontal Gaze Nystagmus (HGN)

Horizontal Gaze Nystagmus is when a person has eyes that involuntary jerk when the eye moves to the side. When a person is under the influence of alcohol, this is enhanced and easy to see. Additionally, a person impaired by alcohol will have challenges following any kind of movement of a specific object across their line of sight.  

Walk and Turn (WAT)

Walk and Turn make a person walk 8 steps with their heel to their toe, then proceed to turn on one foot and then walking in the other direction. This task is scored on the number of clues observed during two separate phases: (1) instruction and (2) walking. One point is deducted for each clue missed or each step improperly taken. 

One Leg Stand (OLS)

One Leg Stand requires the suspect to stand with one foot 6 inches from the ground and count out loud by thousands until the police officer tells them to put the foot down. The person must keep their foot raised for 30 seconds, which is timed by the police officer. One point is deducted for putting their foot down, using their arms to balance, hopping or putting their foot down twice; if they do not maintain balance while counting or make any mistakes in counting they receive a zero. 

Are You Required to Submit to a Field Sobriety Test in Nevada? 

Even if a police officer requests that a person take a field sobriety test, few people are aware that field sobriety tests are not a legal requirement in the state of Nevada. However, during a traffic stop in Las Vegas, police officers are unlikely to inform you of this. It is important to note that refusing to take a field sobriety test might be considered sufficient cause to conduct further testing, such as a breath test or blood test.

Do Field Sobriety Tests in Nevada Work?

Many people just believe that since the police do these tests, they must be effective. The sad reality is that they are frequently incorrect. The NHTSA Appendix articulates how field sobriety tests should be conducted. These instructions were not followed by police officers in many cases, and errors can stem from the use of outdated instructions for these tests. The instructions indicate that clues must be evaluated in relation to each other; however, this is often not done by law enforcement. Instead, drivers are arrested based on one or two "clues" without consideration of whether any other factor might have contributed to the person's performance on the field sobriety test.

Another problem with field sobriety tests is that they are designed for sober people. If you feel nauseous, fatigued or sick after drinking just one alcoholic beverage an hour ago, it will affect your performance during a field sobriety test. In fact, there are a variety of scenarios regarding how these field sobriety tests in Nevada might be incorrectly evaluated or administered, resulting in wrong results. If you were subjected to a field sobriety test and received a Driving Under the Influence (DUI) charge in Nevada, consider visiting with an experienced DUI attorney at Spartacus Law Firm to help you understand all of your legal options. 

Defenses Against a Failed Field Sobriety Test 

There is much debate regarding whether or not field sobriety tests are scientifically valid. In many tests, the accuracy rate appears to be very low, according to the NHTSA Student Manual

It might be possible to raise doubt about the accuracy of your field sobriety test results by asking some of the following questions with an experienced DUI lawyer at Spartacus Law Firm. 

Did the officer properly administer the field sobriety tests? 

Police officers are required to follow standardized procedures during these tests, so if they deviated from those protocols, there may be a chance that any evidence gathered as a result of the faulty procedure will not be allowed into court. For example, it is common practice for an officer administering these tests to ask you not just one question at a time but several. However, if he or she fails to inform you that more one question will be asked before you are required to give an answer, evidence gathered as a result of that question may be excluded from the trial.

Did the officer administer all three field sobriety tests? 

It is important for you to establish whether you were given all three field sobriety tests: the horizontal gaze nystagmus test, the walk-and-turn test and the one-leg stand test. If you failed only one type of these three tests but passed the rest, this could potentially work in your favor.

Did the officer fail to follow standard procedures? 

On rare occasions, police officers fail to follow standard procedures during these field sobriety tests without giving their reasons. For example, they might not use a stopwatch while administering the test or fail to tell you that you are supposed to keep your arms down at your sides.

Does one of these field sobriety tests seem impossibly difficult to you even if you are sober? 

Many people find either one-leg stand test or the walk-and-turn test extremely difficult. People who have problems with their sense of balance often fall during the one-leg stand test. People who have problems with their sense of space often fail to take the correct number of steps in the walk and turn test.

Did you take uncontrolled, multiple steps? 

Police officers watch for this mistake very carefully because it is a sign of intoxication. If you were wearing slip-on shoes or sandals and took multiple steps without removing your shoes first, your performance will be judged as poor and can result in arrest and conviction. 

Were there any distractions while performing these field sobriety tests? 

If there were any significant distractions such as bright lights or loud noise around you then that factor could defeat all other evidence presented by the police officer that shows intoxication; since they failed to account for such factors, which may have influenced their decision regarding your field sobriety test. 

Contact an Experienced DUI Attorney Today 

If you received a DUI following a failed field sobriety test, you may have the ability to fight your charge successfully. Contact an experienced criminal DUI defense attorneys in Nevada at Spartacus Law Firm at (702) 660-1234 to get answers to your questions and ensure your legal rights remain protected.